Amid face-off, Capt, Sidhu camp in Delhi to get audience

The CM blamed Sidhu for party’s “poor show” in urban areas, saying no development work was carried out in cities and towns by Sidhu’s department. Capt said he would be taking Sidhu’s report card to Rahul to make a case for change in his portfolio.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi at the CWC meeting in Delhi(HTphotos)
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi at the CWC meeting in Delhi(HTphotos)
Updated on May 27, 2019 10:23 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By

Amid a tense stand-off between them, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and his cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu are both camping in Delhi to get an audience with Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Amarinder, who reached Delhi for the meeting of party’s central working committee (CWC) on Saturday is putting up at Kapurthala House, while Sidhu at the Punjab Bhawan.

It is not clear as to when they will get an appointment with Gandhi. “The meeting has not been fixed yet. It will probably take place next week. The CM is staying here till Monday,” the CM’s media adviser Raveen Thukral said.

A senior leader present at the CWC said: “The Congress high command has bigger worries right now than the Captain-Sidhu spat. When the party itself is in the midst of a crisis, both leaders can save their battles for another day.”

Soon after the results came in, the CM blamed Sidhu for party’s “poor show” in urban areas, saying no development work was carried out in cities and towns by Sidhu’s department. Capt said he would be taking Sidhu’s report card to Rahul to make a case for change in his portfolio.

On his part, the local bodies minister is waiting for Amarinder to strike first. He too has prepared his own dossier on urban seats where Congress secured a lead. In the five seats in Amritsar city, 4.2 lakh urban votes were polled. The Congress led in all five. In Ludhiana city, 6.4 lakh urban votes were polled in six assembly seats. The Congress led in four — Ludhiana east, central, west and north.

In four segments in Jalandhar city, 3.43 lakh urban votes were polled. The party won two, Jalandhar West and Jalandhar Cantt, represented by Sidhu’s close aide and former hockey Olympian Pargat Singh. It lost two — Jalandhar North segment of MLA Avtar Henry and Jalandhar Central represented by MLA Rajinder Beri. It also cites party’s victory in Patiala, CM’s home turf, which has no rural votes.

“How can the CM take credit for victory in these urban seats and make Sidhu the scapegoat for those where the Congress trailed,” a MLA close to Sidhu said. On Amarinder blaming Sidhu for party’s below par performance in urban seats such as Sangrur, Hoshiarpur and Bathinda, Sidhu’s confidants say all three are represented by ministers — Vijay Inder Singla, Sunder Sham Arora and Manpreet Badal, respectively — and all three have a dominant presence of Hindus, who as trends suggest, have not voted for the Congress in these segments.

The party also trailed in primarily rural seat of Dinanagar in Gurdaspur which is represented by minister Aruna Chaudhary, which is also Hindu-dominated. The three other seats — Pathankot, Bhoa and Sujanpur — which gave actor Sunny Deol of the BJP a big lead in Gurdaspur, are also Hindu-dominated. The saffron party was able to retain Hoshiarpur, which, too, has a sizeable population of Hindus.

On whether the loss in urban areas could be attributed to “Modi wave” that swept the country, Amarinder had said, “It remains to be seen whether it is because of Sidhu’s non-performance or the Modi wave”.

The Congress also suffered a setback in seat of another minister, Rana Gurmit Sodhi, whose turf, Gur Har Sahai, is primarily rural. The Congress candidate, Sher Singh Ghubaya, a former Akali MP, is accusing Rana, a Amarinder loyalist, for his loss.

Interestingly, at the press conference after poll results and a statement released by his office later, Amarinder had called Sidhu a “non-performing urban development minister”. But the portfolio of urban development is held by CM’s confidant, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. “Whatever Sidhu proposed, Bajwa disposed. This tug-of-war too stalled development works and key reforms in urban areas,” a Congress MLA said. HT couldn’t contact Sidhu for his comment.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sukhdeep Kaur is an assistant editor with the Punjab bureau. She covers politics, social issues and special projects, including on-the-ground reporting during critical situations.

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